Monday, 25 April 2016

Dormouse Breeding Group

Our last post we talked about our first harvest mice reintroduction for the 2016 season. Well now I would like to bring you news of our common dormice breeding programme.

The BWC is part of the Common Dormice Captive Breeding Group (CDCBG). This group is responsible for the breeding of dormice for eventual release back out in to the wild. A couple of weeks a go we had our annual meet, where all things dormice were discussed, and any youngsters from last year were collected to be prepared for there release later this year.

After a short spell in quarantine, these little ones... along with many others bred across the group, will make their way to the wild.

You can see our breeding dormice pens opposite our snake enclosures, along with lots of information about these amazing little mammals. But are unlikely to see the dormice themselves... they are extremely nocturnal. You can however see our educational dormice in our nocturnal house! In here we have reversed the day and night around, so that they are active during our day.

I am pleased to say ours are now out of hibernation, and have been spotted regularly out eating over the last couple of weekends!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Harvest Mouse Release

Our first harvest mice release of 2016 went ahead a couple of weeks a go. The milder winter allowed our mice to continue to breed late in to the season last year, and only have a short break before starting again this spring. This  meant we had a lot of mice waiting to be released... but despite the mild weather, other conditions have not been favourable until recently.

Most of you will already be aware of us release mice on to our reserve, and although rarely seen by visitors around the surrounding areas of the boardwalk, I do often see signs, movements or even the mice themselves when walking Bess out there everyday.

In past years we concentrated on these areas around the walkway, and surrounding places that offer good a habitat for these mice. This year we have decided to release the mice a little further down in to our reserve, now that these new areas have had a chance to mature and develop.

Hopefully the mice will settle well there too, and encourage a bit more natural dispersion and spreading of the mice on there own. Ideally the two areas will eventually natural link, and then with further help from our releases, we can get these mesmerising miniature mice to spread in to all suitable areas of our nature reserve.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Albus' Absent Antlers

Oh deer!.. Get it?.. Like oh dear, but deer because it's a deer?.. er, never mind. 

Albus Dumbledeer (yes that is his name, and yes another bad pun, but hey... I'm a Harry Potter fan!) cast his antlers on Monday morning. This happens every year at about this time, and not always together, but this time his dropped within hours of each other. He is still recognisable from the others in the herd though by being the obvious largest deer.

Here they are... all cleaned up and ready for use. We often get asked what we use the antlers for, and it really is a mix of things. The nicer ones are used for display purposes and education reasons, showing school groups that visit etc. The smaller or not so nice ones are cut up and/or put in for our mice and voles to help keep their teeth down and give them a source of calcium.

You may have noticed we also leave some in with our red squirrels, for a similar reason, but the little deer also like to chew on them from time to time.

Each year the deer begin to grow their new antlers straight away, it only takes around 16 weeks to grow them, and while they are growing they are covered in a "velvet" which supplies the antlers with all they need for this growth period. Once fully grown the velvet is stripped off, and the antlers are left exposed as you are used to seeing them.

Each year when a stag regrows his antlers, they get slightly bigger. But they follow a similar pattern to previous years in tine shape and position. You can see in this photo above of Albus' antlers from the previous 4 years.

So, while Albus is antlerless, this means that Olivandeer (yeah ok, not so good that one...) can strut about a bit more being the largest stag with antlers. But it will only be a few days till he loses his as well. I am looking forward to seeing his new antlers in particular though, he is at the age where his set this Summer will really begin to take shape as a mature stags head... maybe he will even be able to give Albus a good run in this Autumns rut. Only time will tell of course.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

March 2016: Photo of the Month

"Polecat" by Sean Weekly

March has been a busy month, especially with Easter falling at the end of it. Lots of visitors, lots of great photos shared, including many of our foxes which seemed to be most popular this past month. Even old Biscuit seemed to get a lot of attention in her old age... nice to see. 

Of the photos shared and sent in, I have gone with the photo above taken by Sean Weekly of one of our polecats as March's Photo of the Month. 

Sean's photo of our polecat, Oriel, stood out for a few reasons. Firstly, it was one of few black and white pictures we see shared really adding atmosphere to the picture, secondly it is a stunning portrait really showing off her beauty with nothing else distracting the eye and thirdly it is an unusual angle. A lot of people will tell you not to shoot down on an animal in wildlife photography, but this photo shows you that in the right situation it can not only work, but work exceptionally well. Well done Sean.

Sean's photo will be in our coffee shop gallery next year along with the other chosen photographs for 2016, and be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. To see more of Sean's photos, click on the link in his name. 

"Yawning Hugo" by Eileen Pocock

Some others that caught my eye this past month included this one above taken by Eileen Pocock. Eileen is only 15, but shows she has a keen eye to spot something unusual with capturing Hugo mid yawn!

"Wildcat" by John Royle

Jim Royle took this lovely portrait of McTavish while on one of our photo days. What I liked about this is it beautifully shows the two main distinguishing differences between a wildcat and a domestic. The tail, and the attitude!

"Red Fox" by Susan

And finally, a gentle portrait of Flo walking through the greenery in her pen. Stunning colours, and good positive motion with her paw coming forward. You can almost see her moving in the frame.

Great photos, and as always you can see more of their work by following the links in the names. Look forward to seeing more photos shared this month.